The Union have long cherished the U.S. Open Cup. It's a tournament with decades of history in the Philadelphia area, and manager Jim Curtin won it in his playing days. And of course, it's a chance to play for a trophy while on the outskirts on the Major League Soccer playoff race.
Curtin's team delivered another memorable win Saturday, ousting the New York Red Bulls, 2-1, in the round of 16 at Talen Energy Stadium. All three goals came in the second half, with Haris Medunjanin and Cory Burke scoring for the home team.
The winner of Wednesday's D.C. United-Orlando City game will come to Chester on July 18 for the quarterfinals.
"We have a special group when it comes to this competition," Curtin said. "A survive-and-advance mentality now. We have a home game in our stadium [to come], and we're three wins away from a trophy."
The first half was scoreless, but wide open — so much so that Union goalkeeper Andre Blake had some choice words for his back line. At the other end of the field, the Union played some good soccer, recording 11 shots to New York's six.
The opening goal came in the 53rd minute. Medunjanin took a pass from Alejandro Bedoya, danced around Tyler Adams and curled an inch-perfect shot into the top corner from nearly 30 yards.
Red Bulls star striker Wright-Phillips entered in the 60th, having not started because he played in a league game last Wednesday. He seemed primed to turn the game, and the Union knew it. But before he could get near the ball, Burke put it in New York's net in the 62nd.
The sequence started with a lovely back-and-forth passing sequence between Bedoya and Medunjanin. Bedoya sprung Burke with a through ball that split two Red Bulls defenders, and the Jamaican striker hit a cool, low shot.
Medujanin was in great form throughout the night. He acknowledged afterward that this game had some extra meaning, as it was his first since his red card in Atlanta two weeks ago. And it could be his last for a while, as he awaits a potential extra suspension from MLS headquarters.
"When you sit outside [of games], it's very difficult for every player, because you are one of the leaders of this team," he said. "It was important for me that we win this game and go with a good feeling."
Wright-Phillips got his goal in the 78th, sprung by big-money Red Bulls playmaker Alejandro "Kaku" Romero Gamarra. Two minutes later, Kaku forced a brilliant diving save from Blake with a grass-cutting shot from the top of the box.
Curtin didn't hide his frustration about that after the game, chiding young centerbacks Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie.
"I don't think it was their sharpest game, but maybe I'm critical and too hard on them, because I see so much talent in them," Curtin said. "We want them to be playing in Europe, and tonight wasn't a European-type performance from either of them."